DEKA comes in four flavors. Perhaps you heard three: Strong, Mile, and Fit. Add Pain to that list. This was my first ever DEKA event. Bill Kemmerer, the owner/operator of Flemington Fit Body Boot Camp at Nex Level Sports and Fitness, producer of the event, asked me on Friday if I knew what I was getting into. Truth is, yes. I’ve been a Spartan for almost ten years. I planned to go into this event and redline it the whole way. And I did. Glorious Pain was the outcome. A top 10 world Leaderboard finish for my AG and #2 AG for this event. Endorphins that lasted for hours afterward.
As I chatted with the volunteers before my wave, I found out that they too were Spartan veterans who loved to hate events like Palmerton and now DEKA. Red-lining through ten stations at a DEKAStrong is the kind of pain that draws me back for more. I loved it though when I finished, I immediately wondered why I put myself through it. Pain is pleasure. DEKA was everything I hoped for.
Each participant has a volunteer with them throughout the event. Jack was with me before I toed the line. He found a clear lane, reset the machines, and then we walked the stations. He described each one in detail for reps and form. He suggested that since we had time, I should preset the seat height on the bike. Ordinarily, like when the crowds showed up later, this would not have been possible. That’s just the breaks of the game.
The ten stations of DEKA will also make or break you. Start off with thirty reverse lunges under 55-pound load. Since there is no running in this event, it’s just a few steps and you’re at the next station, 500 meters of rowing. I wore my Garmin 245 to monitor and maintain my heart rate throughout this event. I maxed out on this machine. Then 20 up and over 24” box jumps. Jack cautioned me here that I could not just jump and then step back down. Up and over is the rule. Next was 25 reps of sit-ups with a 20# med ball. Ball in hands, contact the floor behind the head, sit up, and then contact the floor between the legs. This was the only substitute station for wall balls. Then it was onto 500 meters on the ski-erg. The heart rate was up again as expected. Then a very restful farmer’s carry with 60# dumbbells in each hand. The last machine was the stationary bike for 25 calories. I got the machine going in reverse and did not realize it until halfway through when I changed direction. Jack was very curious about my strategy. Next was the 60# med ball over the shoulder for 25 reps. I thought twenty and started to walk away when Jack kindly reminded me to do five more. After two mishaps in a row, it was on to the sled push/pull. Here I noted my heart rate went under the redline. I rested purposefully though, keeping the HR in zone 3 knowing what final station was to come. RAM burpees. Execute twenty of these dreaded lung burners using a 44# RAM. Then collapse in a sweaty heap. It was over.
I hit the Garmin and stumbled back over to the gear table and just collapsed again to keep from puking. I broke every rule of recovery right then. Stand up, breathe, move around slowly. Once the feeling passed and my heart rate went back into an aerobic zone (the longest two minutes of my life), the endorphins started to kick in. They felt amazing. We all talked, fist bumped, excitedly re-lived the moments out there. It was great. Let’s do it all again.
In fact, I’ll sign up for the DEKA Mile. For newcomers like me, this second level event involves a little running. Between stations, run 160 meters. Once I’m trained up for it, I’ll do the DEKA Fit. This includes a lot of running, about 500 meters between stations. It would not be fair to say that this is just like Spartan minus the hills and water. “Training with purpose just before and in between each DEKA Mark test/event provides an opportunity for every level of fitness to improve in these 10 functional areas of movement. As DEKA Marks (time/score) improve, well rounded fitness and health & wellness improves.” – Yancy Culp, Co-founder of DEKA.
Now lest you think this is a sport for the young, I’ll remind you readers who have not followed me these past nine years of my OCR life in writing that I moved up an age group this year. I turned 60 in January. I’m in the best shape of my life. The young man at registration shared a similar story using a different marker. He lost 400 pounds doing these kinds of events. No matter your background, start your life to fitness journey today and make your mark.
Note: all photos courtesy of Rich Ortiz unless otherwise shown
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